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I wrote this for the LA Weekly last month. Unfortunately, it didn’t run due to space constraints. I know it isn’t timely and I know most of you don’t like Sunset Rubdown. Deal with it.

It’s barely halfway through Sunset Rubdown’s hour-long set and Spencer Krug is already drenched, sweat flinging from his finger-tips as he flails at a beat-up Yamaha keyboard with a deranged phantom fury. This isn’t the opera though (I believe that’s reserved for Joanna Newsom next month at the Disney Concert Hall), instead the band is transposing the haunting Maurice Sendak fantasia of their most recent record, Random Spirit Lover, to a three-quarters full El Rey Theater.

Before vaulting into the bleeding synths and myth-rock of “Winged/Wicked Things” Krug pauses for as second, boyishly smirking into the microphone. His face is partially lit-up by the pale light of a desktop lamp perched just to his left, a lamp he’s lugged across the country, night after night as Sunset Rubdown has canvassed the country non-stop over the past 12 months, first behind last year’s brilliant Shut Up I Am Dreaming and now for the recently released and similarly great, Random Spirit Lover. Speaking for the first time beyond a few cursory thank you’s, Krug timidly declares “we’ve never played in such a fancy venue before.” Without missing a beat, the band’s keyboardist/melodica player/self-described lone female on a bus with 11 other guys, Camilla Wynn Ingr playfully teases him: “well, you have.”

All Sunset, No Rubdown

 

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Ingr’s addressing the 800 lb. elephant, er…. wolf in the room, the fact that it was only a month ago when Krug played to a much fuller house with his other band, Canadiandie royalty, Wolf Parade, with a crowd that included more than a few suds-swilling frat boys sucked in by the acclaimed Montreal band’s Sub Pop pedigree and much more democratic guitar rock. But there is little overlap tonight, with the demographics even less diverse, unless diversity counts as being split even between graduates of Otis, Cal Arts, and the Art Center. It’s just as well. Sunset Rubdown is probably too raw and weird to cross-over, with Krug’s lyrics a dizzying jag of surrealist animal imagery. The sort of uncomfortable honesty that only makes sense drunk, rambling, stoned in the ashy delirium of 3:00 a.m (which ostensibly, would make it perfect for frat boys.)

Most striking about this band is their ability to transpose the feverish revelation and atavistic urgency of their albums into the live setting. Whereas first, it merely appeared to be Spencer Krug’s vanity project, Sunset Rubdown have congealed into a tight working unit capable of rendering obscure EP cuts (“Three Colours”) into sprawling quasi-psychedelic three-guitar heavy jams or letting loose into a two drummer freak out that was almost danceable were it actually possible to dance with a straight face to a song called ““The Taming of the Hands That Came Back to Life.” Most importantly, the band did so without compromising the behind-closed-doors emotionalism and off-kilter instrumentation that makes them so unique in the first place. Despite this being their fist time in fancier digs, Sunset Rubdown seemed at home, channeling the early morning desperation and private confessionals presumably composed in the pale and lonely light that lingered in the background.

Download:
MP3: Sunset Rubdown-“Winged/Wicked Things”
MP3: Sunset Rubdown-“Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days”

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